6 Easy Ways To Build A Hydroponic Grow System

Starting your own hydroponic grow system might seem like a daunting project for beginners. You've probably seen phrases such as "Nutrient Film Technique" or "Ebb and Flow" and thought: "Help!"

It might sound complicated, but building your own hydroponic system is actually a simple and extremely rewarding home gardening method. Your vegetables will grow up to 100% faster and you will use less water, less land and fewer pesticides- reducing your carbon footprint!

The Aqua Gardening team has put together this Hydroponic Grow System guide, with six easy methods to choose from. All made from readily available materials with a minimum of expertise.

Basic Materials

The type of hydroponic grow system you decide to build may change the list of materials you will use. However, here is a basic list of items that most systems need.

So, what kinds of hydroponic systems can you choose from?

Run to Waste

This is by far the easiest and cheapest grow system to set up. All you need is pots filled with your choice of substrate, a bucket for your nutrient solution and a watering can.

Simply mix your solution according to the instructions and manually water your plants once or twice a day. For the more environmentally conscious gardener, you can collect the drained nutrient solution to be filtered and reused.

Lettuces in a hydroponic grow bed

Hydroponically grown plants

Ebb and Flow

This grow system consists of a reservoir with a growing chamber sitting on top. A timer and pump flood your plants with solution and then drains it back into the reservoir.

You can make one at home by taking a plastic tray and drilling two holes in the base. This will be your growing chamber. Next, take a storage bin (your reservoir) and drill two holes into the lid that will line up with the holes in the growing chamber.

Install a "flood and drain set" (available at your hydroponic store) into the holes in the bottom of your growing chamber.

Place a water pump at the bottom of your reservoir and install a length of black tubing over the outlet hole, running the tube through the lid and into the short drain fitting in your growing chamber.

Drill an additional hole on the outside edge of your reservoir lid, and feed an air pump through it, putting the air stone at the bottom of the reservoir.

All that you need to do now is fill your reservoir with nutrient solution and arrange your plant pots in the growing chamber. With this system you should have your air pump on constantly and the water pump on for 15 mins three times a day.

Deep Water

Deep Water hydroponics involves suspending the roots of your plants in nutrient solution constantly.

You can make a simple one by purchasing some mesh pots and cutting holes in the lid of a storage bin for the pots to sit in. You then simply fill your pots with substrate, fill your storage container with nutrient solution so that the bottom part of the pots are submerged and add an air pump. Viola!

You should keep your air pump on 24 hours a day and change your nutrient solution every two weeks.

Nutrient Film Technique

NFT hydroponic grow system

This hydroponic method basically consists of a thin stream of constantly flowing nutrients around your plant roots.

To build one yourself you will need some PVC piping and something to stand them on, such as a wooden frame. Once you have assembled this, attach rubber caps to the ends of your piping and drill two holes in one end.

Seal two lengths of tubing to the holes and place the other ends in the bottom of your reservoir, attaching one to the outlet hole of a water pump.

Then, take some small net pots and make holes in the top of the PVC piping that will hold them in place. Fill up your nutrient solution bucket and plant your seedlings into your pots filled with substrate.

Drip System

As the name implies, this hydroponic grow system drips your nutrient solution into the top of your plant containers.

For this system you will basically be taking your plant containers (large buckets will work well) and drilling a hole in the bottom of each for drainage.

Install your drainage kit and tubing, making sure they are long enough to reach the bottom for your reservoir.

For your watering system, connect a length of tube to a simple "T" connecter. Take some more tubing and make a loop that will sit around the top of your plant bucket. Using a hot pin, poke plenty of holes into this loop.

Attach the watering system to your water pump and you're in business!


Aeroponics is a grow system that doesn't require any substrate for your plants and saturates the roots in a mist of nutrients.

The simplest aeroponics construction is to take some net pots (with rubber foam lids) and a large bucket with a lid. Make holes in the bucket lid for your pots to sit in.

Get your hands on a submersible water pump with a riser and sprinkler head and attach to the bottom of the bucket with suction cups.

Half fill the bucket with nutrient solution and set your timer to be on for 30 minutes and off for 30 minutes throughout the day.

Don't see anything you like? Fear not! Hydroponics is highly customisable and there are many more grow systems you can experiment with. Your local hydroponic store can help you, but don't forget to visit the Aqua Gardening website for more Hydroponic How To Guides